April 2, 2019
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Ada Shuk Chong Lee, M.D. contributes to topics such as Pediatrics.
Moses F. Olorunnisola, M.D. contributes to topics such as Pediatrics.
By Brianna McCabe
Parents, you have one of the toughest yet most rewarding jobs out there: you’re watching and guiding your baby as he or she grows. It’s complicated, but beautiful.
As the years pass, though, you realize that your baby isn’t quite a baby anymore—especially once they hit that adolescent stage between the ages of 13 and 19. It’s a period of development through emotional, mental, physical, moral and social maturity. During this time, your child is on a mission to construct an identity, but in the process can become easily influenced by the environment and more prone to impulsive behavior.
Gaining popularity through social media, a tempting influence amongst adolescents is vaping, or the act of inhaling and exhaling aerosol (often referred to as ‘vapor’) through battery-powered, hand-held devices such as e-cigarettes, pens, pods and e-hookahs. The liquid located within the device’s chamber—usually containing nicotine, flavorings and other additives—is heated and vaporized upon inhalation.
“Vaping is a serious health concern in the lives of youth nationwide,” cautions Moses Olorunnisola, M.D., a pediatrician at Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group. According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 4.9 million high school and middle school students admitted to using tobacco in 2018, which is a significant increase from 3.6 million reported students in 2017.
“What is most concerning is that children aren’t aware of some of the effects of vaping,” says Ada Lee, M.D., a pediatric pulmonologist at Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group and Hackensack University Medical Center. According to Dr. Lee, in children, vaping has been associated with increased prevalence of lung conditions such as asthma, wheezing and bronchitis. “Even more frighteningly, e-cigarettes contains nicotine which can lead to addiction and can harm the developing brain, impact learning, memory and attention. Furthermore it can be a gateway for conventional cigarette use as well as illicit drug use.”
Since many vaping devices are inconspicuous in size and overall look, many adolescents may find it easy to hide their habits. Additionally, since most vapor is odorless, parents may be less likely to detect a smell. “Part of the allure of vaping is the ability to hide the scent coupled with the ability to enjoy the flavors,” says Dr. Lee. “Most children will opt for flavors such as candy or fruit. After all, there are over 7,000 flavors on the market.”
According to Dr. Olorunnisola, these are some signs parents can look for that may suggest if a child is vaping:
- Increased thirst. Vaping removes hydration from the skin, especially around the mouth and throat. Dr. Olorunnisola shares, “A child that is drinking an abnormal amount of liquids may be trying to combat this dehydration.”
- Nosebleeds. Skin around the nose can crack due to lack of moisture, notes Dr. Olorunnisola, which can dry out the nasal passages and cause nosebleeds.
- ‘Vaper’s tongue.’ When moisture in the mouth is compromised, you can lose flavor perception. “If your child is taking an interest in spicier foods or is suddenly looking to add more spices or salt to his or her meals, it may be a sign that they are vaping,” he clarifies.
- Skin damage. “If you notice that your child’s skin is becoming irritated or damaged when it was once clear, this can be a sign,” advises Dr. Olorunnisola. “An increase in red spots and worsening acne can be indicative.”
- Sleep disturbance. People who vape tend to have their sleep pattern disrupted. Dr. Olorunnisola says that children may stay up later than usual, may have difficulty falling asleep or may even be restless during sleep.
- Emotional problems. “As the nicotine and other substances in the vaping device can affect the brain chemistry, your child who is vaping may have increased irritability or frustration,” he says.
- Passing on caffeine. The combination of caffeine and vaping can cause alarming mood swings and/or increased anxiety, explains Dr. Olorunnisola. “Therefore, a child who normally likes to take a cup of coffee or likes to drink soda may suddenly start cutting back to mitigate these effects,” he adds.
“It is important that parents sit down with their children and have honest conversations with them about the risks involved with vaping,” advises Dr. Olorunnisola. “Reach out to your child’s pediatrician or other available resources to help address the issue if needed.”
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.